“You can convince people of these things much easier now because they believe that speech is violence and nobody likes violence…there’s a reason, a very specific reason that you recast words as violence because nobody wants to be opposed to free speech.”— Michael Moynihan

Michael Moynihan is a correspondent for Vice News and co-host of The Fifth Column podcast. In this interview, we discuss identity politics and its effect on framing issues such as the Russia Ukraine conflict. We also cover culture wars, toxicity, mainstream media, and freedom of speech.

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US polarisation has turned society into isolated camps with defined ideologies and narrow cultural perspectives. Issues are expressed in binary terms: you’re expected to have a for or against a position. And the determination of which position to take is increasingly made as a reaction to what the other side believes. Politics is tribal.

There are obvious issues with this trend. People become increasingly deaf to consideration of opposing views. The Socratic method has been ditched in favour of blind alliance to a given group. Critical thinking is decreasing; vitriolic rhetoric is on the rise. Identity politics is resulting in a balkanisation of our communities, as like seeks like, reinforcing the divide.

The impacts are becoming increasingly disorientating, as both sides of the political divide align with beliefs that were previously antithetical to their respective ideologies. For example, the right and left have changed their relative positions in terms of support and distrust of government agencies.

And, instead of trying to break down these barriers, our representatives and media are increasingly fermenting and exploiting these culture wars for financial gain. Media is becoming beholden to audience capture, both in terms of the large mainstream media corporations, and the wave of independent voices rising from social media. Real journalism is on the wane.

The result is the true nature of life becomes clouded, including events of huge geopolitical significance such as the Ukraine Russian conflict. We’re unable now to distinguish fact and spin. The real problem is that people are unable to unite and coalesce around nationally vital policies. And as the world problems become more complex, how will this all play out?

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WBD511 - Show Notes

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